First of all, what a turnout. The day started of awfully as the sky was grey and we had difficulties putting our gazebo up (thanks to Steve who was a a saint). Anthony from Umara Smokehouse gave us a table and an umbrella but we needed something a bit stronger to keep the rain out. We asked all participants to come from 12pm onwards for registration but we only managed to get everything set up 30 mins later. But fair due to you all - everyone was so patient and kept coming back.
What an amazing talent is out there - we couldn't believe our eyes when we were finally able to display all the food people brought. From homemade breads to flavoured oils to the most creamiest icecream. I was gobsmacked to be honest. It was simply mindblowing.
Our three judges, Ed O'Neill from Teasagc, Ruth Healy from Urru (Bandon) and Declan Ryan of Arbutus Bread were just as amazed as Dianne and myself were. The bad weather didn't kill the spirit of all people involved and we started tucking in. The judges 'grilled' the cooks, bakers and growers and wanted to know everything that was to know about the products.
I had my camera with me but was too busy to take any pics of the participants which is a pity really but we have some nice ones anyway. Let me introduce you to the cooks, bakers and growers (in no particular order):
She brought us steamed puddings (midsummer berries & West Cork Strawberries) which had a lovely light texture and the berries had a nice zing to them. She grows a lot of her produce herself and sources the rest from friends gardens and local producer. Her icecream was simply screaming at me to eat it all (but I behaved...and only had a couple of spoonful)
You can find Liz at the Fermoy Farmer's Market on Sundays where she sells her lovely tarts, cupcakes and brownies . . . and lots more. Her lemontart was light and disappeared in nanoseconds. Her rosepetal and raspberry cupcake won the Mutant Space Eat my Cupcake competition and I have to say it was the most prettiest. So, make sure you pay her a visit at the market.
Chris came with a suitcase full of products but his gooseberry curd made him a winner with the judges. I personally loved the Plum & Star Anise Jam which had an unusual but lovely flavour. He also brought Portuguese style custard tarts (you can sample them at Cork Coffee Roaster, Bridge Street on Saturdays).
Poor Alan had just moved house the day before and got up at the sight of the first sunray to bake us some truly amazing bread. We enjoyed his rosemary foccacia, pesto bread and his multi seed bread. He even managed to make rhubarb and raisin bread.....Declan was impressed by the quality of the breads but I simply stuffed my face with it :-) Thank you, Alan, for letting us take some of the bread to the award ceremony
Chris from Sherkin
Chris came all the way from Sherkin with his homebrewed beer - may I say that I don't like beer very much but that in this case I sipped more than just a taster :-) Chris only uses natural ingredients and yeast and doesn't add sugar other than to help the head to form. He also brought his homemade wine and will you believe it??? Marrow and Pineapple wines taste actually very nice - unusual but nice. Sherkin will host a food festival in August, make sure you pay the island a visit. You might be in for a treat when meeting with Chris.
Poor Mary Jo. She and Mary were the first one to arrive for the registration and had to come back several times as we were so much delayed. And both were so nice and still let other people go first. Thank you ladies, you were amazing.
Mary Jo brought us some really nice chutney and especially Ruth was very interested and the judges were very impressed by the way Mary Jo uses her produce and gives it some thought on what to do with it. I loved her elderflower cordial. Keep going Mary Jo.
I had some lovely chats with Frances in the preparations to the award and she is the shyest person I have come across in a long time. She made us fairy cakes. She is famous in her family for making novelty cakes and her fairy cakes were lovely decorated with Disney characters. She is in great demand for family gatherings were her cakes disappear quite quickly.
When Salima called me the first time, I think we spoke about 30 minutes on the phone. Her husband runs a Halal butchery in Barrack Street and she is very interested in cooking and is hoping to be able to sell her food for parties and large dinner parties. She made us hummus and couscous salad - please trust me it is not the same as you can buy in the shop. This food was simply yummy. Ed gave her his card and I hope she will be in touch with him to discuss how to proceed from here.
Mary is one of the most loveliest woman you will ever met. She was so patient with me and she and Mary Jo just made my day. Mary baked some lovely soda bread that was enriched with sesame. the original recipe was handed down to her from her mum but Mary made the recipe her own by adding sesame seeds to the dough. She bakes bread for friends and family and gives it always some thought how to make it more nutritinous for people of an advance age or with brittle bones. Mary, thank you so much for your patience. I loved your bread.
Have you ever been to a shop and seen these pretty bottles with oil and some things added to it. Well, trust me when I say, Annettes oils are not only pretty to look at but they also have a great flavoured packed in as well. She grows her own chillies and herbs and arranges them in such a lovely way that you do not want to open the bottle - but of course that didn't stop us at all. I loved them all. She also started to make sweet flavoured oils and I was very unlucky as we were running behind schedule and had to abandon the tasting of more oils. I hope that we will be able to see Annette's oil in shops soon.
Carol has put in a lot of work in her product which is homemade yogurt. I am not particular keen on flavoured yogurt but I love natural ones and hers was as yogurt should be. She also made an orange yogurt drink which was very refreshing. She also put a lot of work in her branding and her label is just the prettiest ever. I am sure that we haven't seen the last of Carol and her farm on the hill of the fairies.
Have you ever been to a French restaurant and ordered steak?? If so, you will know what Cafe de Paris butter is. This butter was first served in Geneva in 1941 with Sirloin Steak in a restaurant called Cafe de Paris (I bet you guessed that already). You can buy this butter in a delicatessen shop (although I have not seen it in Cork) and it also goes nicely with white fish. Anyhow, pat managed to come pretty close to the original (as far as I know all recipes out there are not the original) and it was simply yummy. The judges loved his homemade Worchestershire Sauce which had a great zing to it. I have to admit.....I took the jar of butter home with me and it disappeared quite quickly (and nope I didn't share it).
So, these were the shortlisted cook, bakers and growers and as I said, I was blown away by the talent and passion that each one presented. Chris with his gooseberry curd won being very closely followed by Pat. The oils were my personal favourite but I made a point by staying out of the judging. The judges ruled by presentation, flavour, sellable product and uniqueness. I can't wait for next years competition to see how this years participants have evolved and how many more are joining our quest to find the new top artisan of Ireland.
I like to thank everyone who has helped us on this journey. We didn't have any budget (zero, nil, 0) and we wouldn't have been able to pull this through without them. There are Ed O'Neil from Teagasc who sponsored the winning mentoring course, Failte Ireland who will be watching our talent more closely, Midsummer Festival for the free space at the Feasta Market, Declan Ryan and Ruth Healy for giving up their Sunday for the judging, Cork Coffee Roaster for the use of their coffee shop in Bridge Street for the award ceremony. Julian from Bubble Brothers for some truly lovely wine (I only got a sip as I was so busy) and Anthony from Ummera Smokehouse not only for the table and brollie but also for a big pack of smoked salmon and last but not least Matt and Chris for their help in getting the stall dismantled again and holding on to the table to make sure it doesn't get knocked down. All of you a great big thank you...will hug you all at a later stage.
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